As part of our “meet the team” series, this week we feature Lorna Watson, Interface Business Engagement Executive for Tayside.
When did you start at Interface and where did you work before?
I started with Interface in April 2013, previously I worked with Business Gateway in the Scottish Borders as a Business Adviser since 2007. Before this I was the Team Leader of the Business Information Department within Business Gateway so I have quite a range of skills and access to information which I find helps my clients.
What attracted you to the position?
Laura Goodfellow, Head of Business Engagement at Interface, was a regular visitor to Business Gateway in the Borders so I was well aware of the services Interface provided. I was keen to see if my skills from business information and as a business adviser would be able to work well in this new job role, as I had a background in working with businesses which were growing and developing new products or services. We were also in the process of moving up to Perthshire for my partner’s new job and this job came up at just the right time.
What does your role incorporate?
I work with businesses to help them find a university or research institution to take forward their business projects, so this could be anything a university does, from researching the nutritional value of food to academics working on developing a product, as they did with Tayside business, Uan Wool.
What does a typical day look like?
I am usually out and about in the beautiful rural Perthshire countryside. I cover the whole of Tayside so I often travel to meet businesses to talk about their potential projects. I find it amazing to discover so many innovative businesses based in the rural areas as well as the cities. Once I have worked with the business on their potential project it will be a combined effort to complete a brief which then becomes an invitation to tender to the universities. I will then carry out research to identify the universities that are best placed to take forward the project, and then I send them the project details. We have a point of contact at each university who receives the Interface enquiries and they then send it out to the academics and departments we have suggested, and often other academics who may have a specific interest in, say a mountain biking project. There is also a fantastic array of specialist facilities which are available to businesses to use to create, develop, test and analyse products. I am usually juggling quite a few different enquiries at all different stages so it keeps me on my toes.
What do you like most about the role?
I find that every enquiry is different so you would never get bored in this job. I have had quite a range of enquiries over the years, although you do get runs of the same type of enquiries e.g. apps have been very popular. Duncan and Goodfellow, who make the famous Dundee cake, approached me as they wanted to know how to market their new Dundee Cupcake idea - I matched them with Abertay University students who were thrilled with this new challenge.
Where are you from?
I am from Hawick in the Scottish Borders originally. The local name for a person from Hawick is a Teri (pronounced teeree). Hawick is well known for its Common Riding. The Hawick Common-Riding is the first of the Border festivals and celebrates both the capture of an English Flag in 1514 by the youth of Hawick at a place called Hornshole and the ancient custom of riding the marches or boundaries of the common land. Hawick was in the news a few years ago from not allowing women to ride in the Common Ridings and there was a big “to do” about the lady provost being allowed in the Hut – a traditional men-only tradition. The traditional drink of the common riding is rum and milk!
What advice would you give businesses about funding?
I spend a lot of time researching the funds that are available to take businesses forward and freely give this information and advice. I find it really depends on what you are planning to do but I am always happy to have a chat and see if I can make any suggestions. If a company was interested in working with a university to take forward a tourism project to develop a new interactive display and then use this to market the area e.g. Perthshire, they could possibly be matched with a university through Interface, then if the display was innovative the university would assist them in applying for funding through the Scottish Funding Council, then they could look at applying for Leader funding later to use as part of their plans to market their area of rural Perthshire.
Any tips for funding applications?
Businesses need to keep an eye on what the government is doing; at the moment they are really keen to help innovative businesses develop so when applying for funding really look at the criteria and make sure your project does comply and address all of this criteria within your application. Make it easy for the funding panel to quickly identify that your project complies.
What motivates you on a dreary Monday morning?
I really love my job so I’m not usually one of those people wishing the week away. I am quite sad and do write up lists of things that I need to do – people tend to think I’m really organised and remember everything – but really if I don’t write it down there and then I have forgotten within 5 minutes. So on a dreary Monday I would get a very large coffee on the go and pull out the list!
What three words sum you up?
Organised, helpful and proactive!